Ark Tribe, the struggle against the ABCC continues

In his 11th appearance before the courts on a charge of refusing to cooperate with the Australian Building and Construction Commission, Adelaide rigger Ark Tribe has had his trial adjourned yet again until November 3. The adjournment was made on September 13 to allow both prosecution and defence counsels to present arguments on the legalities of the charge against Tribe.

Tribe was charged last year for refusing to attend an interview with the ABCC in 2008 in relation to a safety meeting at an Adelaide building site. He was working on a site where workers took industrial action after the building employer refused to address the workers’ safety concerns. Safework South Australia backed up their claims.

Tribe’s defence lawyers will argue that John Lloyd, the ABCC commissioner at the time Tribe was charged, formed no opinion on the alleged evidence that Tribe contravened the law and that his deputies had no right to act on his behalf under the Building and Construction Industry Improvement (2005) Act. It appears this will be the last throw of the dice and the hearing on November 3 will result in the case being thrown out or a conviction recorded. Tribe faces heavy fines and a possible six months behind bars for refusing to dob his workmates in to the inquisitorial ABCC.

The construction union (CFMEU), has threatened massive walk-offs on building sites around the country if Tribe is imprisoned. Tens of thousands workers have already rallied in his defence and many other union activists are threatening similar strike action to defeat the draconian BCCI legislation, brought in by the Howard Coalition workplace relations minister Tony Abbott and retained by the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments.

The ABCC was created after a $60 million royal commission into the construction industry, purportedly to weed out criminal activity. Despite no criminal charges being laid as a result of the royal commission, the ABCC was created to terrorise construction workers and their unions. On September 21 Lloyd, who left the ABCC on September 28, outlined the real role of the ABCC under his watch. He proudly claimed that the ABCC had conducted 200 “compulsory” examinations - interrogations involving construction workers who were accorded even less legal rights by than those suspected of terrorist attacks – 38 current court cases and 90 under investigation. He stated that $3.6 million in fines had been awarded against construction unions and individual workers.

Not one charge or conviction has been recorded against any construction employer, despite the shameful safety record in the industry resulting in an average of one construction worker being killed every week on sites around the country. Nor has there been a single charge of corruption against any building boss, despite the industry being notorious for backhanders between companies, governments and contractors.

The campaign against the ABCC and the dropping of charges against Ark Tribe remains a trigger point for the union movement. Tribe has now been joined by a Queensland rigger, Matt Heath, who is also facing the same charge of refusing to cooperate with the Star Chamber of the ABCC.